ATA Truck Tonnage Index falls for second straight month

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 3.2 percent in March, following a revised 3.6 percent drop in February. This marks the second monthly decline after increasing for five consecutive months from September 2005 through January 2006.

The latest dip put the seasonally adjusted index at 110.1, its lowest level since November 2003; compared with March 2005, the index was 2.6 percent lower. The not-seasonally adjusted index surged 15.4 percent from February to 118.7, which is its highest level since September 2005. Carriers typically haul significantly more tonnage in March, which accounts for the increase in the not-seasonally adjusted index.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says March marked the first time since 2001 that tonnage volumes declined on a year-over-year basis for three consecutive months. Motor carriers anecdotally reported that freight volumes were weaker than normal during the first part of the month, Costello says, but they rebounded by month’s end and remained strong through early April. This rebound, however, was not strong enough to compensate for March’s weak start, he says.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. ATA calculates the index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year for the index is 2000.